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The New Arab

First mixed-gender concert in Saudi Arabia performed by woman

The concert in Riyadh had an audience of 2,500 people [GCA Saudi Arabia]

Date of publication: 27 April, 2018

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The Egyptian Opera House, which performed in Riyadh on Wednesday, comprised of 45 male and female musicians and singers.

Saudi Arabia for the first time allowed a mixed gendered concert to take place, performed by an Egyptian singer on Wednesday.

Egypt’s National Arab Music Ensemble of the Egyptian Opera House marked its first performance in the kingdom, debuting with singer Nihad Fathy, making her the first female singer to perform to a mixed crowd. 

The Egyptian Opera House comprised of 45 male and female musicians and singers, including the star singers Ahmed Effat and Mai Farouq. They performed in front of an audience of 2,500 people.

Long known for its ultra-conservative mores, the kingdom has embarked on a wide-ranging programme of social reforms that includes boosting sports and entertainment and allowing women to drive from June.

Since the appointment of 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as heir to the throne in June, Saudi Arabia has launched an image overhaul, lifting bans on cinemas, public music festivals and scaling back restrictions on women.

But the reforms still come with many restrictions as the kingdom and companies expanding their platform to Saudi Arabia sideline women. 

Wrestling giant WWE was slammed by fans for excluding women wrestlers from its landmark show in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi authorities last week shut down a female fitness centre in Riyadh over a promotional video deemed to be contentious for appearing to show a woman in figure-hugging workout attire.

"We are not going to tolerate this," Saudi sports authority chief Turki al-Sheikh tweeted as he ordered that the centre's license be withdrawn.

While the reforms have been met with excitement as Riyadh loosens its shackles on Saudi women, there are still criticisms that the Saudi government is not doing enough for women.

There is also a consensus that the reforms are tokenising women to personalise Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a “modern reformist”. 

UK based Saudi academic Madawi al-Rasheed described his reformations as disingenuous reforms that benefit him on the national and international stage.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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